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PO Box 439 AVALON NSW 2107
(61) (2) 9973 1728
Seals and Dugong      

Marine Conservation

Seals and Dugong

Over the years HSI has undertaken a number of campaigns and supported projects designed to secure greater protection for the conservation and management of marine mammals including, seal and sea lions, dugong, and whales and dolphins.


HSI runs several campaigns to help make Australia's oceans and coastlines a safer place for seals. HSI's nominations have succeeded in gaining threatened species protection for two species, the Southern Elephant Seal and the Sub-antarctic Fur Seal, under Commonwealth and relevant state laws. We have advocated the designation of Marine Protected Areas at Macquarie, Heard and McDonald Islands, which provide home to important seal colonies.

Calls for seal culls from renegade fishermen in NSW, Victoria and Tasmania are regularly fended off. This HSI does with sound scientific argument, lots of letters from our supporters to politicians and through the media. We also run a campaign to get guns off boats because tragically some fishermen take perceived seal problems into their own hands. Shocking anecdotal evidence suggests shooting seals is widespread in some fisheries. Shooting seals is illegal but the authorities tell us that obtaining evidence for prosecutions is near impossible. Therefore, banning firearms on boats is the only solution.

HSI also campaigns hard on the issue of seal by-catch in trawl fisheries. In 1999, HSI protested the deaths of 89 seals in the nets of two factory trawlers in the Blue Grenadier/hoki fishery off SW Tasmania. After we informed the media and the issue received high profile attention, Australia's Fisheries Management Agency began a trial of Seal Excluder Devices on the two boats. HSI is now campaigning for the use of such devices to be mandatory on all trawl boats operating where there is a risk of seal by-catch. Literally hundreds of seals are caught every year in Australia's South East Trawl Fishery.
Seals are especially at risk from marine debris and discarded fishing gear. Sadly it is now a common site at seal colonies to see some wearing 'plastic necklaces'. Inquisitive young seals are especially prone to entanglement and as the animal grows strangulation slowly occurs along with extensive wounding as the plastic collar cuts through the skin leading to infection, blood poisoning and eventually a slow and painful death. HSI's nomination to have Marine Debris listed as a Key Threatening Process and a Threat Abatement Plan should help address this awful problem.

Internationally, HSI campaigns for an end to the cruel and unnecessary annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Canadian Harp seals. Further information on these efforts is available here.

HSI also campaigns against the Namibian seal slaughter.  Click here for more information
Humane Society International / Canada Statement on temporary suspension of EU seal product trade ban click here.


HSI secured a promise from the Federal Government to nominate the Australian population of dugong to Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) to ban all international trade. This they did and the population was successfully upgraded to Appendix I at the CITES meeting in Kenya in 2000.

HSI's campaigning also led to the Australian Government gaining a commitment from other dugong range states to develop an agreement to better conserve the species through the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS). A resolution was passed at the 2002 CMS meeting committing Governments to this initiative. In 2007 a Memorandum of Understanding for the Conservation and Management of Dugong throughout their range was formally signed, with Australia (having played an active member in the negotiations) being one of the first signatory Parties.

The dugong's conservation status in Australia is variable and this has made it difficult for HSI to secure legislative protection for the species. In remote parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory it is thought to be surviving in good numbers whereas in the southern Great Barrier Reef it is severely endangered. HSI believes that the biology of this unique marine mammal makes it 'vulnerable to extinction' and it should be given this status in legislation.

Sadly, a nomination HSI submitted for the dugong to be listed as vulnerable under the old Federal Endangered Species Protection Act was rejected. Also rejected at the time was HSI's nomination to have 'gill netting' listed as a Key Threatening Process for the dugong. Although the nominations did help pressure the Government in to establishing Dugong Protected Areas in the Great Barrier Reef and to ban gill netting in two of them.

While a threatened species listing has yet to be achieved, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, which HSI helped to negotiate in 2000, has given the dugong protection as a 'migratory species'. This protection does at least mean that significant impacts on the species are now subject to Federal environmental impact assessment and approval. The EPBC Act also enables the Federal Government to develop national Wildlife Conservation Plans for migratory species and HSI has called for one for the dugong, and the government has recently signalled their intention to do so.

HSI continues to campaign for threatened species protection for the dugong. We are very concerned that the Dugong Protected Areas do not go far enough. A Recovery Plan for a threatened species would also be stronger and have greater legal weight than the Wildlife Conservation Plan.

Latest News 


HSI Applauds European General court ruling on Seal products ban

September 15 2011  click here

HSI reveals Seal Slaughter cruelty during eight round of Canada-EU trade talks in Brussels

July 11 2011 click here

HSI Applauds European Parliments defense of EU Seal products trade ban

June 8 2011 click here

Web: AndreasLustig.com